I finished wrapping up the last of the items I had on the to-do list for this radio.
I bought a Sprague “Orange Drop” 0.0068uF 1600V capacitor, and upgraded the 15kOhm resistor to one capable of 2 Watts power dissipation.
I decided to paint the front up in the same silver as the rest of the chassis, so a visit to the hardware store saw a can of “cap denotes color” spray paint- a dull military silver. Spraying it resulted in a bright aluminum finish! Not common. So, I drew an outline around the loudspeaker on card, cut that out and painted the area the speaker occupies black, as per original.
I then used some foam rubber I had to make a funnel like it would have originally had. On top of that, I fitted the Front/Front+Rear/Rear loudspeaker selector switch that came with the other radio once I discovered where it attached to the radio. That has now given the option to install another loudspeaker in the car (potentially in the back, or another one with higher fidelity characteristics).
I finished wrapping up the internals of the radio. I had needed to build a standoff for the Bluetooth board and went looking for something suitable to make some legs from. I ended up going to the hardware store, where a bit of innovation led to the purchase of 4 nylon pipe joiners and some screws that fit into them well, with a coarse thread.
I drilled some holes in the case and mounted the board in place (bottom right). I wired it in and tested it, successful connection from across the room even with the case fully assembled. I’m guessing the high frequency Bluetooth radio can traverse the cooling holes. If not, I was going to get an external antenna for it.
I went and test-fitted the radio to the car (not an easy task, a few things need to be undone and moved aside for it to fit) which works nicely. I peaked the input cap to the antenna (which goes up and down when the radio is switched on and off) and tested the Bluetooth.
Small blip in the editing was just me cutting 6 seconds of awkward silence as my old phone decided to be slow to pair to the Bluetooth in the radio. I’m still tempted to add a little something else to it. We’ll see. I need to change the buffer capacitor on the rectifier before it sees any serious use but overall, that’s done and ready to go.
I turned my attention to the remainder of the chassis once the power supply and volume control were built. I took a permanent marker and wrote the part identifier from the schematic plus its capacitance value where it was illegible or facing the wrong way.
I decided to replace every component. I’m glad I did, because easily half of the resistors were wildly incorrect in value and I’m sure all the old paper/wax capacitors were equally bad. I pushed the tubes in and powered up gingerly. After wiggling one tube a bit to clean the contacts I was greeted with AM static.
It was nice to see the thing fully populated with tubes again, and assembled. I cleaned it up a bit (it was rather dusty) and put the face back together.
It’s far from perfect, but I think it looks okay. I might paint it in the original silver to match the back of the case.
I had done a bit of research into Bluetooth modules, and found a nice one that has an audio pass-through using a mechanical relay. When nothing is connected, the relay is connected in such a way that the audio in passes through to the output connector. With a Bluetooth device paired, it engages and disconnects the input audio and sends its’ own generated audio out. Ideal, as the radio can function as original until a Bluetooth device is connected, then it’ll feed through from that. I had started work on this as you can see; the connectors de-soldered from the board and a rather large ferrite core inductance choke connected to the power input. There was quite a lot of hash being picked up and send back into the radio and out the loudspeaker through the heater circuit. I added that choke and a couple of high value capacitors to the heater chain which silenced the noise. I replaced the audio wire that goes to and from the volume control because the original had a short circuit break somewhere inside, and had the out and back signals twisted together, inside a shield. When it was just an AM radio this was perfectly acceptable but when the Bluetooth module engages, the amount of cross-talk from the radio circuit made the end result unintelligible. I separated the radio output and volume control mix return wires in their own shielded, individual wires. That resolved 99% of the interference issues and made the audio output very clean.
I set the radio on the side and streamed music to it for several hours. The quality of the audio is impressively good; the design of the power amplifier circuit is good and while not quite a full 12 Watts due to a lower plate voltage than usual (at a guess it’s about 8 Watts) it is a good, hi-fi design, and with a full-range loudspeaker the sound it produces far surpasses any expectations of the device. Last to-smile-at feature will be in the car, installed. With my phone connected, it represents a hands-free calling system… not a bad option for 1951!
When I bought my Chieftain, the original radio was long-since gone, replaced with a more modern stereo cassette-player. The new one was designed to look a little “retro”, but really was better suited to a mid 1970’s vehicle than one from the 1950’s. At a guess, when the vehicle was converted to 12 Volt the converter either realized that the radio was incompatible, and required a converter to operate at 12V or they powered it up and it let all the magic smoke out very, very rapidly…
What happened is mere speculation- I’m guessing the former because there are no marks up inside the dash to indicate there was any electrical fire. More likely an upgrade was decided upon.
So, that was pulled out pretty quickly because it was horrible. I had a bit of a thought and went took a look at the radio sets used in these cars and similar cars of the era. I put a bid in on a radio with the correct knobs to match the rest of the dash and won it. It had been stored damp, and the tuner assembly had suffered zinc pest, a crystalline breakdown of the zinc due to lead impurities and moisture. Undeterred, I did my due diligence and determined that the 1956 Buick “Sonomatic” radio held enough in common with the 1951 Pontiac set that it could be used to supply parts to repair the broken tuner assembly and also liberate the all-important high-voltage transformer to convert the set natively to 12V operation.
Way back last year I made a start on the set then shelved it following a trip out of state, where I got distracted by the Zenith radio in the previous post. Having completed the Zenith, I was able to clear my bench…
…which was promptly filled up with Delco radio. I took a look at it and tried to figure out exactly what I had done some 14 months earlier. Having pulled the Riders schematic up for both the Pontiac and Buick radios, I set about re-familiarizing myself with both the schematic, the chassis and the work I had done and then stopped.
I took a look at the socket for the vibrator that I had made a repair to previously. I saw that the center lug needs to be connected to chassis, so I bent the tang down and… snap. The thing broke off where the brass had work-hardened. So, I split the two pieces of phenolic apart and began work on a solution.
I hammered a fork connector flat, bent it up in profile to meet up with the socket. I then took my propane torch and soldered it to the chassis- at this point I could use high heat because there was no phenolic in place. After it had cooled and made a very strong connection, I slid the phenolic in under it, with the lug in place, which was then soldered with a less intense heat from my iron so as not to char the insulator.
The rest of it then screwed in place. While not as strong as it was originally (and missing two brass rivets), supporting the back while inserting the vibrator is adequate to prevent it from breaking further. On the other side there is a heavy 6-fingered spring holding the vibrator secure so there is very little mechanical load on the pins.
I then went on a spending spree and bought the 12V equivalents of the original tubes (sadly the Buick set used 12V6 output tubes and had no others in common- but the Pontiac set used 7C4 output tubes, which are 6V6 with a Loctal base), along with a full compliment of new capacitors.
While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I got bored with the old ones and utilizing a bag of googly eyes I have in the drawer of my desk created The Analog Gang, the meanest bunch this side of the B+ rail…
The first thing I decided to tackle was the power supply. I wired the vibrator and the power transformer up, connected an old 9V battery to it and the output pegged my meter set on 1500VAC range. Safe to say, unregulated, the power transformer was still good. Once the capacitors arrived I decided to tackle the 3-in-1 HT rail capacitor. Originally the can was stuffed full of a big wad of foil and paper, comprising 3 independent, common cathode capacitors. One 10uF, one 15uF both at 400V and a 20uF 25V one. This had all gone bad with age, so the can was sawn open, gutted, cleaned up and the base drilled out to give access for new wires to be threaded through.
I bought short but fat capacitors, high temperature, 450V. Because there is the possibility of a solid-state vibrator in this set’s future, I needed to add more filtering to the B+ high voltage lines as the SS devices create more hum than the original mechanical ones. So, I used 2x 40uF B+ capacitors with a 20uF cathode filter.
The can was all polished up. Being aluminum it came up looking pretty. The values stamped into it are wrong but the connectors do lead to the correct part. With the back off the inside of the radio looks a little more original.
I finished up the HT supply. I will need to change the resistor and the cap marked TOPMAY because the value of them are too low- the resistor is meant to be a 2 Watt item (that’s a 1/2 Watt) and the buffer capacitor should be 0.007uF, not the 0.005uF that’s in there. As the value is quite critical I have been advised that 0.0068uF is closer and should be substituted.
In the picture above this one you can see that there is quite a lot of wax on one of the socket pins on the right-hand side. This is from the old buffer capacitor, which had failed quite spectacularly and sent liquid wax all over the inside of the HT supply case. I shredded the top of a Q-Tip onto a small jeweler’s screwdriver, dosed it with isopropyl alcohol and used that to clean the wax out of the connector.
With that thoroughly cleaned and the socket bent back into shape, I was able to give a test of the HT supply properly, with the rectifier in place.
Using a half-dead 9V square battery, I was able to bring up 90VDC on the high voltage side of the power supply. This was immediately considered a success.
Out of curiosity, I removed the metal lid off one of the 0Z4 rectifier tubes I have and powered it up. It glows quite spectacularly! It is a cold-cathode device, rather like a neon sign tube, except there is an anode connection and two cathodes. As the voltage rises on one, it reaches a critical threshold where the argon gas inside ionizes and begins to conduct- releasing the bright mauve glow. This is encapsulated in a metal shield to try and reduce RF emission.
With the power supply operational, I started on the next loose piece. I had removed the volume and tone control previously, so figured it would be a good place to continue. It’s a triple stacked item, with a power switch operated by the volume control, the volume potentiometer and a 4-position switch for tone control.
I cleaned it up, removed the old components and replaced them with new. I’m glad I did because the resistors had all drifted well out of spec (2 were more than 50+ more resistance than they were marked for). In working out how it was all assembled and operated, I determined one thing that made me smile- the set has rudimentary loudness compensation. At low volume, the bass and treble are boosted, with the mid tones reduced. As the volume is dialed up it reaches a transition point on the track where it is tapped (25/75% of the sweep) where a different capacitance takes over the tone control and allows full treble. Simple, but effective. With that complete, I moved on to rebuilding the main chassis.